RIAA Suits May Actually Promote File Sharing

By Richard Menta 5/03/05

Today it is accepted as common knowledge that the record industry lawsuits against the original Napster served as advertisement for the new service. That can happen when you take an application only a few months old and splash it on the front page of newspapers throughout the world for two years. Over the course of the trial tens-of-millions flocked to the service and when it was finally shut down those users turned to Morpheus, KaZaa and later to eDonkey and Bittorrent. File sharing was big and only became bigger.

Richard Menta

The entertainment industry's "Sue 'em All" campaign seems to be suffering from the same effect. Rather than do what it was designed to do (as Jon Newton would say 'scare file sharers into purchasing their overpriced products') and cause file sharing to drop, trading on the P2P applications have increased. According to Thomas Mennecke in his great article "RIAA's Grand Total" 10,037 - What are Your Odds" there are approximately 12 million P2P users online at any given moment.

Now that the media conglomerates have topped the 10,000 lawsuit mark Tom's article lays out the fact that the chances of being sued are 1 in 1,840. The chances of dying by external causes like a horrible accident? 1 in 1,755. People don't stop driving cars because of fears it will kill them (though they might buy bigger more secure ones if their concerns are high). Likewise, file sharers won't stop sharing.

Tom parses the numbers quite adeptly and is a recommended read for all as is this article by Jon Newton. By placing the risks in this perspective, the fear of lawsuits is lessened. Lower the fear and the suits themselves only become more like ads, keeping the spotlight on file sharing. These articles could become quite influential should it pick up a wide readership.

But what if the RIAA uses these numbers as an excuse to turn up the heat? What if they decide to increase the mass scale of these suits to worsen the odds? Then they have to deal with another effect, lost sales due to bad PR. Ask Martha Stewart about that one if you doubt its influence.


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